Statement to the City Council of the District of Columbia May 22, 2018

Councilmember Mary Che

Dear Councilmember Che:

The Clergy for Community Wealth Preservation, also known as CCWP, is a group of DC area clergy representing approximately 50 churches throughout the District of Columbia. We address both local and national issues and how they impact the communities we serve; we organized primarily, however, to help African-Americans stay in the city by helping families and churches to maintain their meager wealth and pass that wealth into the hands of succeeding generations.

We are growing increasingly concerned about the escalating water prices in our city and the impact it has on our churches, cemeteries and the poor of our communities. We are aware that the federal government has filed a suit against the city to cleanup the Anacostia River, which is another indication of the heavy-handed tactics the federal government imposes upon us because we have no statehood. However, levying communities and certain institutions the higher rates necessary to clean the river is a grave imposition on longtime residents who are already suffering from the effects of escalating living costs in DC. Exorbitant water rates will drive more and more African-American churches and individuals out of the city as DC becomes an increasingly unlivable city, but for the wealthiest residents.

Roughly 30 churches have left the city due to the increasing challenges [they] met from the rising cost of living; this is unconscionable!  Our churches not only provide religious and spiritual support, they also deliver social services to day cares, seniors, and many other groups. A city with fewer churches and houses of worship will be a city whose spiritual and moral core has been decimated. We cannot bear to lose more churches to the suburbs.

We are aware that it will cost the city  $1.3 billion over the next several years to repair old water pipes and infrastructure that in some cases date back to the Civil War. We also are aware that citizens will be charged for the building of a new tunnel that will carry water to the Blue Plains treatment center. DC citizens, our churches, our cemeteries and our longtime residents, need relief in this present stifling economic environment.

CCWP is also concerned with DC’s method of choice to determine water usage for churches and cemeteries.  It is flawed; aerial photography cannot accurately detect how much water is being used. Hotels and many apartment buildings are using much more water than our churches, however, they are not paying their fair share because their parking spaces and garages, in most cases, are underground and escape aerial detection.

We are asking the city and the federal government to appropriate $50 million in perpetuity to lessen the impact of these sky-rocketing water bills.  The evidence is clear; exorbitantly high-water rates have driven and will continue to drive our citizens out of the city.  All communities matter.

Respectfully,

Wallace Charles Smith

Pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington DC

President of the Clergy for Community Wealth Preservation